The custodians of Halo have considered "what it means to move television forward," says executive producer Kiki Wolfkill. It's an unusual line coming from 343 Industries, maker of Halo 4, but it shows a more practical streak than Microsoft's own (and now defunct) Xbox Entertainment Studios.
343's Halo Channel is an Xbox One and Windows 8.1 app that works like a giant web for the Halo franchise, ensnaring original TV programming, games, news, Twitch streams, social activity, franchise fiction and, by the looks of it, any Halo fan who uses it. Tapping into your Xbox profile, it'll recognize you and suggest content based on what you've played, watched and read before. "We will always curate a stream," Wolfkill says.
343 will control a steady stream of exclusive content coming to the Halo Channel, including a weekly show called "The Bulletin." Beyond 343's picks, you can also create a queue of episodes, watch original Halo shows (like the upcoming Halo: Nightfall series), read Halo news, watch live gameplay, or peruse and jump straight into any Halo game on your system. The interface is slick and cleanly organized, with custom art and video adding a glossy layer to transitions and episode title cards.
The Halo Channel doesn't merely collect all the bits of Halo's history in one place, but connects them to one another through overlays and scene-specific interaction. The always-present guide can be summoned for navigation, or to embed information from the underlying Halo encyclopedia. During an episode of Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn, for example, the encyclopedia elucidates on the current scene's location, weapons and characters – it even confirms which one is Master Chief. (Psst, it's that green guy.)
Wolfkill says 343 is working to bring as much of Halo's fiction into the channel as possible, even if it comes from graphic novels and other projects. Animated episodes from Halo: Legends would be perfectly suited to the Halo Channel, for instance, once they've been seeded with hooks that snag information from the encyclopedia.
This is all rooted to a popular video game, remember, so even completing episodes gives you a reward somewhere else in Halo. Wolfkill illustrated the reward loop with an episode of Halo: Nightfall, which unlocks for owners of Halo: The Master Chief Collection. Once you beat – err, watch – an episode, you get a reward back in Halo: The Master Chief Collection.
When you're not consuming Halo history, you can try absorbing strategy from Twitch. Microsoft is partnering with the game broadcasting platform, making any Halo stream on Xbox One part of the Halo Channel programming guide. It'll be an ideal vector to spectate on Halo matches, especially given how many maps will be in circulation once Halo: The Master Chief Collection arrives, and to jump right into the game.
343 Industries is getting the Halo Channel ready for a debut on November 11 alongside Halo: The Master Chief Collection. Check out the Joystiq preview of Halo: The Master Chief Collection for a big ol' summary of everything else and get ready to finish the fight ... right after you watch a TV episode, and the next one, and then watch a Halo 2 match, and then tweet about it.
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